Over these last few weeks I have been writing about the behavior of believers -- just a reminder to us that people are watching and, rightly or wrongly, they are making decisions about Christ based upon what they see in the lives of Christians.
In fairness, they are right to do so. The name Christian actually means "like Christ."
However, we have to admit that the judgment of those who are not believers regarding those who are believers is not always fair. The Bible says, "Nonbelievers think it is strange that you do not do the many wild and wasteful things they do, so they insult you" (1 Peter 4:4, NCV).
Tell someone you are religious and many times they will think you are wonderful. Tell them you are a Christian and they look at you like something is wrong with you. Why is that?
The Bible says that there is an offense to the Gospel (see Galatians 5:11). This offense is because the Gospel message says some things we don't like to hear. For example, we like to think of ourselves as basically good people, but the Bible says we are basically evil and we don't like that; it is offensive.
Then the Bible says that Jesus is not one way to heaven among many, but the only way to heaven -- and in an age where tolerance is the supreme virtue, such a message is seen as arrogant and offensive. So many, instead of being grateful for the wonderful gift of life that God offers to all those who will come to Him by faith, are repulsed by the thought that the Creator just might have certain standards.
Years ago, I was leading a group through the wilderness of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Our task was to arrive at a particular destination 15 miles from where we put in. Fifteen miles is a long walk by any stretch of the imagination, but tackling that distance with 50-pound-plus packs and no trail is quite a challenge.
Early in that trek, I happened upon a well-worn path, and thankfully it followed the course my compass said was the way to our destination. I was elated. The compass led us along that path for so long that I soon found myself trusting the path and neglecting the compass. Big mistake.
After one difficult crossing of a river (with a near tragedy resulting from the crossing), I decided to check the compass setting once again. I was surprised to discover that the trail did not correspond with the correct destination. We had to backtrack a half mile, making that dangerous crossing once again, before we were able to get back on course.
Life is like that. Many of us choose the comfort of a path that seems right, even though the compass tells us we are off course. In fact the Bible puts it this way, "Before every man there lies a wide and pleasant road that seems right but ends in death." (Proverbs 14:12, "The Living Bible").
Our choice is simple. We can insist on heading our own way, or we can follow the correct setting. The problem is, many find that concept offensive.
The funny thing is, those who insist on a more tolerant approach generally are quite intolerant of anyone who disagrees with them. This is particularly true when it comes to Christianity. Those who accuse Christians of being intolerant precisely because of the offense mentioned above, do not seem to see their own intolerance when they denounce Christianity as being intolerant.
Does anyone see the discrepancy here?
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org.